On CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday (hat tip to Expose the Left), Salon’s Washington bureau chief Walter Shapiro attributed the current media frenzy surrounding the transfer of management of a number of American ports to DP World of the United Arab Emirates to an Associated Press article first published on February 11. Speaking with host Howard Kurtz, Shapiro stated:
“Well, I think to some extent the entire parameters of the story were set by the initial AP story that Glenn Reynolds [of “Instapundit”] linked to on February 12. And what that was, was very simply an AP story that said the ports are being taken over by a Dubai company -- a Dubai-based company and that in the lead it said that two members of the -- two of the 9/11 hijackers had United Arab Emirates passports. And the same AP story had the attacks on the deal from Chuck Schumer.”
Kurtz then asked: “So you're saying that that was a loaded piece of journalism by The Associated Press?”
Shapiro answered: “Well, I admire The Associated Press. What I am saying is it certainly set the bumper sticker -- the print set the bumper sticker standards that television then emulated, as did the blogosphere.”
Looking back in hindsight at the AP article in question written by Ted Bridis, it is easy to see Shapiro’s point. Here’s the lead: “A company in the United Arab Emirates is poised to take over significant operations at six American ports as part of a corporate sale, leaving a country with ties to the Sept. 11 hijackers with influence over a maritime industry considered vulnerable to terrorism.” It’s certainly not too difficult to understand how this might have inflamed not only readers, but also news agencies that subscribe to this wire service. The article continued by linking the UAE to 9/11, and with some cautious words from the senior senator of New York:
“The State Department describes the UAE as a vital partner in the fight against terrorism. But the UAE, a loose federation of seven emirates on the Saudi peninsula, was an important operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the attacks against New York and Washington, the FBI concluded.
”Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat whose district includes the New York port, urged the administration to consider the sale carefully.
”’America's busiest ports are vital to our economy and to the international economy, and that is why they remain top terrorist targets,’ Schumer said. ‘Just as we would not outsource military operations or law enforcement duties, we should be very careful before we outsource such sensitive homeland security duties.’"
The article was chock full of security risks surrounding this deal like, “Critics of the proposed purchase said a port operator complicit in smuggling or terrorism could manipulate manifests and other records to frustrate Homeland Security's already limited scrutiny of shipping containers and slip contraband past U.S. Customs inspectors,” and:
“Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the FBI has said the money for the strikes was transferred to the hijackers primarily through the UAE's banking system, and much of the operational planning for the attacks took place inside the UAE.
”Many of the hijackers traveled to the U.S. through the UAE. Also, the hijacker who steered United Airlines flight into the World Trade Center's south tower, Marwan al-Shehhi, was born in the UAE.
”After the attacks, U.S. Treasury Department officials complained about a lack of cooperation by the UAE and other Arab countries trying to track Osama bin Laden's bank accounts.”
Is it fair to blame this whole media firestorm on the AP? Probably not, for a full two weeks have passed since this article was first published, and good investigative journalism by any of the various media outlets that have covered this story could have separated the facts from the hysteria they have wrought. However, as there have now been numerous revelations about who actually controls security at these ports regardless of the management, it might have been beneficial for all concerned if Bridis had done a little more research on this subject in order to impart a more accurate reflection of the facts that was less inflammatory.
For those that are interested, here is a Video Link of the CNN segment courtesy of Expose the Left.